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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies

A Cultural History of The Manchu Script: Lists, Grids, and Metal Type in China and Europe, 1680s-1780s


Dr. Mårten Söderblom Saarela (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin)

Datum und Zeit

29. September 2016, 16:15–18:00


The Manchu language, written using the Uighur-Mongol script, appeared on the world stage almost out of nowhere when the Qing invaded China in 1644. The political order of East Asia had been upended; from Peking to the newly garrisoned Chinese cities and on to Europe, concerned individuals made efforts to understand the new status quo. Not least the Manchu language, which had taken place alongside Classical Chinese as China's language of state, called out for an explanation.

In this talk, I will discuss some aspects of China's and Europe's encounter with Manchu, focusing on its script. From monolingual syllable list to Chinese textbooks, rhyme tables, and on to European etched grids and typeset texts, the Manchu script appeared in a number of contexts as scholars of different backgrounds tried to make sense of it. The story of Manchu shows that a script is more than a medium; it can itself be the center of a cultural history.


Asien-Orient-Institut, Universität Zürich, RAA E 29, Rämistrasse 59, 8001 Zürich


Asien‐Orient‐Institut – Sinologie